We know that freedom of expression is a crucial element in democracy, development and dialogue – without which none of these would function or flourish. Freedom of expression is a universal right to be enjoyed by all. Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers as declared in Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
UNESCO is the United Nations agency with the specialized mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary freedom of the press and freedom of information. Over the decades, UNESCO has labored to promote these fundamental human rights across the globe, amongst practicing media professionals, policy makers, politicians, governments, non-governmental organizations, academia, and more. The Freedom of Expression Toolkit: A Guide to the Concepts and Issues is a continuation
of this ongoing effort.
Everyone should have all the necessary tools and mechanism to allow the free flow of information. Much has been written about freedom of expression, indeed it is one of the most debated concepts and issues of our times. However, few such publications are written with youth as the main target readers, especially for young women and men still in high schools and pre-university level. This Toolkit is one such tool targeted at high schools and pre-university students. Young women and men must be empowered and literate in the issues and concepts of freedom of expression in order to become a discerning citizen in a democracy.
- Why does freedom of expression matter?
- When is freedom of expression at risk?
- What are the conditions needed for freedom of expression to flourish?
- What are the special roles of journalist in freedom of expression?
- What about freedom of expression online?
- What can we do?
- What are the limitations?
These are some of the questions the Toolkit tries to answer through an easy and engaging manner. They are arranged into seven “tool boxes”, each with a different focus. The first toolbox discusses about the concept and explains the importance of freedom of expression. The second toolbox highlights the issues that threaten freedom of expression including controlled media, intimidations, and obstacles in access to information, restrictive laws and regulations. In the third toolbox, readers are sensitized to the conditions needed for freedom of expression to flourish such as the rule of law and having free, independent and pluralistic media in addition to an active civil society.
A special section is devoted to addressing the role of press and of journalists in freedom of expression in the fourth toolbox. In addition to traditional media such as print, radio and broadcasting, the fifth toolbox also brings in discussion on the recent development in social media and networking especially their uses in freedom of expression. The sixth part of the Toolkit is designed to enable readers to bring theory into practices through a wide variety of exercises, projects, and thought provoking questions including activities such as celebrating the annual World Press Freedom Day or setting up Media Monitoring site. Lastly, the final toolbox discusses about the dilemmas of freedom of expression and its limitations. In addition to the seven toolboxes, there is a “bonus material” section based on the case study of the fictional country called Zangara which is an amalgamation of real world events allowing readers to further explore the concepts and issues in greater depth.
We thank all who have been involved in this process.